India reports first suspected human death due to bird flu


India is believed to have reported the first documented human death due to bird flu when an 11-year-old boy from Gurugram succumbed to multi-organ dysfunction on July 12, an official statement said on Wednesday.

Haryana State Unit of Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) will soon begin an epidemiological investigation into this suspected death due to bird flu at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi, where he was admitted on July 2.

The statement issued by the Health Ministry said the matter has been reported to the Animal Husbandry Department, and a team of experts is undertaking an epidemiological assessment at AIIMS.

A team of doctors and nurses who treated the patient has been monitored since July 16 for the development of any influenza-like illness. It is to be noted that so far, none of the close contacts have been reported symptomatic.

“Contact tracing was undertaken and family members, close contacts and health care workers are under close surveillance. None of the close contacts have any symptoms. Contact tracing, an active search for any symptomatic case has been carried out in the hospital and area where the case resided,” the Ministry said, adding that there are no symptomatic individuals in the area at present.

The Animal Husbandry Department has not found any suspected cases of bird flu in the area and has enhanced surveillance in a 10 km zone as a precautionary measure. Further, an epidemiological investigation by the National Centre for Disease Control, involving the animal husbandry department and State government surveillance unit, is underway and appropriate public health measures have been instituted.

“Department of Microbiology AIIMS received the Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) for respiratory panel testing on 7 and 11 July 2021. The sample has tested positive for both Influenza A and Influenza B. It was also negative for SARS COV-2 and other respiratory viruses. Subtyping for Influenza A remained inconclusive with available reagents for H1N1 and H3N2 at AIIMS. So, the samples were sent to NIV (National Institute of Virology in Pune) on 13 July, 2021,” the statement said.

At NIV, both the samples were tested for Influenza A and Influenza B along with Influenza A seasonal (H1N1, H1N1 pdm09 and H3N2), non-seasonal avian subtypes (H5, H7, H9 and H10) by real-time PCR. The result showed that the sample is positive for A/H5 and Type B Victoria lineage. Whole-genome sequencing and Virus isolation are in process.

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